Hollywood Everywhere? Ultraviolet Poised for Launch Without Apple


Having universal access to the media one buys in any one format has been the consumer lament for the decade or so that digital made multi-platform distribution so easy. In the coming weeks and months Hollywood is making a concerted effort to satisfy both that consumer desire and its own fears of piracy with the Ultraviolet initiative. This consortium of major studios and tech providers keeps the media one buys in a cloud-based locker for access theoretically across set top boxes, Web, tablet and mobile phones. The principle is simple: buy a film or TV show on disk or in a digital download and get to watch that media from a range of connected devices.

Green Lantern will be the first DVD/Blu-ray disk released with Ultraviolet on Oct. 14. The consumer gets them a code that will allow them access to the film online via a redemption code as well as rights to download it to a device three times.

Of course the problem is that no one knows what mobile access is going to be possible in this scheme yet. The initiative represents an unprecedented consortium of Hollywood content and tech players, all focused on the idea of adding value to their media sales at a point when they are most needed. But "we are weeks away from the release of the first UV-enabled discs and there is no detail on what the user experience entails," says Ed Barton Director, Digital Media Strategies, Digital consumer Practice, StrategyAnalytics.

Barton complains in a recent research report that for all of the partnerships and technical toil that has gone into developing a new file format that will work across a number of DRM systems, (including Adobe Flash Access, Microsoft's PlayReady, Google Widevine and others), the obvious missing link in this grand chain of suppliers is Apple. "The emergence of Ultraviolet will up the competitive stakes in the provision of digital media lockers and cloud-based content distribution," says Barton. "However a lack of compatibility with Apple devices or iTunes will discourage the highest spending digital media customer base from using Ultraviolet content which in turn impacts the value proposition."

Getting consumers to move to yet another digital media provider after some of them have invested so much for so long in others is simply a tough project, no matter how many partners Ultraviolet has. If UV content isn't available for use on Apple devices or for sale in one of the most powerful media stores on the planet, then why will people add another one onto the pile of providers? "If consumers don't use the digital copies UV enables then they won't attach any value to UV content," says Barton.
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